The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

Whilst I should have been sleeping

On the flight back from the UK, whilst everyone was sleeping, this was the view from the window. It was pretty spectacular don’t you agree? I asked the air steward if he knew where we were flying over at that moment and he reckoned it could have been Afghanistan.

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I spent a lot of last week awake whilst everyone was sleeping. I know it only lasted a week but I don’t think I’ve fully recovered from the effect that jet lag had on #1, 2 and 3. For this time, it hasn’t been just about getting myself back to functioning like a relatively normal human being.

Jet lag is the price you have to pay to get to the land of eternal sunshine. Though it’s been raining heavily nearly every afternoon we’ve been back which would really piss you off if you had travelled all this way only to be rewarded with jet lag and rain.

From what I remember of three years ago, there was only #1 who was up between the hours of 11.30pm and 3am for about four nights. He wasn’t quite three at the time and #2 was only 15 months and so she settled straightaway.

After accidentally sleeping in until 1pm last Tuesday, the day after we got back, we had a tag team of #3 up at 11pm followed by #2 at 2am and then #1 at 4am which resulted in me cooking noodles and making toast at 4.15am. They finally fell asleep at 6.45am. I contemplated whether it was worth going to sleep at all but then decided it would be best for the wider community that I had some form of sleep. Sending #1 and 2 to school has been the best remedy for jet lag, they come back exhausted and thankfully sleep. #3 has been the biggest pickle, as she already gets in a good few hours before I feel it’s a reasonable time for me to go to bed and then she’s up for a few hours and so it went on.

I’ve had a few people ask me whether it’s been difficult to settle back into Singapore after such a long time away and of course, you all could tell how much I loved being back in the UK. There were times when we were in the UK, that I would think of Singapore and find it all quite surreal. I mean to be honest, this whole expat existence is quite surreal.

But the thing is, whilst I have a close affinity to the UK, #1, 2 and 3 do not. Singapore is where they were all born and is where their home is. It’s where they have a familiar routine and where they can find the friends they know best. So for that reason, I would never be so rude as to call the UK ‘home’ in their presence even if I feel so comfortable with the place when I’m back. It would just end up confusing them. Home is where we all live together as a family.

I think I needed a break from Singapore in order to appreciate it again. Much the same I appreciate the UK after six years away. I was starting to feel claustrophobic on this small island country and feeling like we were doing the same activities week in, week out. I imagine it’s a feeling you can get the world over. It is a small place and we have done quite a number of things already (some I would never go to again like Hay’s Goat Farm and FarmArt) but as I discovered at the weekend, there is also a lot more places we have yet to explore and now that #1, 2 and 3 are older I think we can venture out and do a lot more.

It’s a beautiful city state and it’s growing all the time. Where I live now is a 10 minute run down to the river that takes in the amazing skyline of that ‘boat on three buildings’. In the UK I had no qualms with driving hours to get somewhere so it should be nothing to drive 35 minutes north to get to the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve where you can see natural mangroves and crocodiles at dusk.

So whilst I don’t know when we may choose to leave Singapore, I think it’s time to start living like it could be any time soon and not take it for granted as to leave without really getting to see many of Singapore’s hidden gems would be a real shame indeed. I’ve heard about this natural hot spring somewhere up north. It looks like some someone’s back yard with a makeshift water pump and you have to bring your own bucket to fill up with the natural spring water to dunk your feet in! A far cry from the volcanic natural hot spring Husband and I went to in St Lucia but it looks funny and I think we should try it.

Then again, some of the old favourites are still a sight to behold. #2 is desperate to see if she’s tall enough for the boat ride at the Singapore River Safari which she sees is her right of passage to being four years old. It’s also a privilege to be able to pop out for dinner and drinks with friends and have views like this. Shame it has to be for a leaving do for someone I’ve know nearly all the time I’ve been in Singpore.

Such is the transient nature of where we live and that is what I need to remember.

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All good things……..

So if I have to be awake at 3am I may as well make use of the time and conclude my travels around the UK.

However when I’ve had only a couple of hours sleep these past few days I’m more than likely to ramble on more so than usual. Or not at all as I can honestly say my brain is working a few steps behind.

A whole month has been the longest that Husband has been away from #1, 2 and 3. The month seemed to pass by fairly quickly as we travelled here and there but I know it has been tough on both sides. It was very disconcerting when #3 kept calling every male she encountered ‘Daddy’, I tell you.

Spare a thought for Husband who arrived in the UK for just nine days. Getting over jet lag one way only to encounter it in triple force a couple of days later. How do international jet setters do it?

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Even just six weeks of road tripping in the UK has been enough for me. I think I’ve seen enough of the A1 for awhile. I have never found the A1 as interesting as the M1 mostly due to the service stations being rubbish. But this time back, I’m rather disturbed by the presence of several Adult Sex Shops in BIG LETTERS on either side of the A1. That’s just wrong. And very unsavoury UK. Though I suppose if you needed some emergency pants then you’d find some semblance of pants there.

Anyways, after a big London night out with The Ones, Husband and I spent a couple of days with #1, 2 and 3 taking in the sights of London Town. It would have been a total shame had we not been able to do so as #1 is old enough to have heard about the London Eye, Big Ben and where the Queen lives.

It’s exciting taking young children to these famous landmarks and reminded me of how much importance was placed on these places (except the London Eye) when I was a child.

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It also happened to be Remembrance Sunday when we were in town. It can’t have escaped your attention that this year marks the centenary of the start of WW1. The streets around Buckingham Palace, The Mall, Houses of Parliament and Downing Street were completely pedestrianised. You couldn’t get right up to the gates of Buckingham Palace but you could amble undisturbed by traffic around the Cenotaph where poppy wreaths had been laid earlier that day.

The thing with sightseeing with children is that you really can’t pack in much and there’s not much point taking them places they have no idea about. But that was ok as we rather enjoyed just walking along the river Thames from the Houses of Parliament past the London Eye, St Paul’s Cathedral, London Bridge, HMS Belfast, the GLA building, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. Doffing our caps to the pubs we’d once frequented but bypassed this time. We even saw Tower Bridge open up not once but twice in the time we were there, I’ve never seen that before.

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Having marvelled over the fact that Uncle Monkey had never seen The Shard until a couple of weeks ago, I was equally incredulous to discover he had never been on the London Eye before. How is that even possible? Until the revelation came out that he has a huge fear of heights. Well I never, the things you learn about people you’ve known for years. Good job he has us to show him the sights of the capital city he is so very proud of.

When we reached the Tower of London dusk was falling which transformed the mood around this historic landmark. At 4.55pm began the roll call of soldiers who had fallen during the First World War.

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I think York may well be my third most favourite city in England. It’s probably the one I’ve visited the most without having lived there. The last trip back we saw David Gest (you know, him who was once married to Liza Minnelli), strutting around the cobbled streets. I have a not so discreet pap shot of him. If ever you’re up in that area, go and have afternoon tea at Betty’s, I do love Betty’s but I think they have fallen a little out of love with us after #1, 2 and 3 lost the plot a bit and we were presented with the bill without having really asked for it. Take a stroll around York Minster, the Castle Keep and along the river. It’s incredibly beautiful up in York through all the seasons. #1 and I weren’t so keen on exploring the Jorvik Viking Centre which offers a true to life Viking experience complete with sounds and smells. The smell emanating from the Gift Shop was a little bit too realistic and enough to make me retch. I am not tolerant of bad smells.

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We made one more trip up to Newcastle for lunch with my Mum and my Dad, Mr Li, Our Jenn, the Facebook Informant Cousin and Nephew #1. Have I ever mentioned that conversations with my cousins can never be conducted at regular decibels. Everyone has to shout. REALLY LOUDLY. To the point where people around us think we’re having an argument when we’re just talking about the price of peas.

There’s a department store in Newcastle called Fenwicks which has a fabulous window display sequence every Christmas time. It’s like a tradition to mark the start of the festive season to go and have a look at the Fenwicks window. #1, 2 and 3 were fascinated by this year’s Alice in Wonderland theme. They were especially taken by the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party window. I wonder why.

So this trip started off with a wedding and ends with a wedding too with #1, 2 and 3 playing some very special roles for Sister in Law’s wedding to our new Brother in Law. Sister in Law looked absolutely stunning as the radiant Bride. It was a great family occasion and one more chance to see some of our friends before we were due to leave the UK the next day.

It’s always a pleasure to bear witness to Uncle Monkey and Mr Steamer getting absolutely mortal. When my partying shift was over and I was saying farewell to people, Uncle Monkey was shimmying on the dancefloor in hot pink flip flops with a fair few shirt buttons undone (not enough to bare nipple as staring at them is rude) and Mr Steamer had lost the ability to understand coherent human speech.

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Small people dressed up in fancy outfits is very cute. Especially #1 looking so proud dressed in his smart trousers, shirt, cravat and waist coat. Good job he had a full six weeks practice of wearing many layers to build up to this part. #2 took her role as flower girl very seriously and was very insistent that it involved carrying the train of Sister in Law’s gown. #3 loves a good dress up and couldn’t wait to put on her dress and literally ran up the aisle to hang out with the Groom. Then during the ceremony, #3 decides it’s a good time to practice her fake belching. Quickly joined by #2. Fake belching during a wedding ceremony by a 2 and 4 year old. They are very good at it I must say.

And just in case we haven’t made good use of every moment we’ve had in the UK, Mr Cupping and his family came over for lunch just before we had to depart for Heathrow Airport. I’m really glad they did too so that we could give our Congratulations in person to the whole family for the exciting and happy times ahead of them.

So, as all good things go, that concludes our six weeks and three days away.

I had high expectations as you know and it has been the best. I certainly feel I’ve made up for the three years I haven’t been back. After six years of living a life abroad, I’ve had the privilege of many great experiences which I’m very thankful for. But what it has taught me the most is an appreciation for what I have in family and friends in the UK. That over time, these relationships haven’t weakened but have in fact strengthened.

Some things have changed of course and the economy, the Government, some public services may not be ideal but to be honest, where on this earth is everything ideal. The prospect of moving back is daunting and what I’ve just experienced has been a fabulous long holiday and nothing like what real life would be like. Yet, even so, we’ll all be in it together and you can tell me all I need to know as I still don’t know how to apply for schools.

I’ve seen as many people as I could and I love you just as much. I’ve caught up with some really old friends and made some lovely new ones. I’ve eaten everything that I wanted to and perhaps shouldn’t. I’ve drunk many a proper pint of draught Guinness and developed a new love of whiskey. #1, 2 and 3 agreed that the UK is brilliant and they enjoyed everything we did.

But I do know they also want to be back home. And home for now is Singapore, which is also ok.

Now please can I get some sleep in my comfy, cosy bed I’ve really missed!

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You’re still The Ones

I’m on a train in Staffordshire to take me back to Milton Keynes where Uncle Monkey will be waiting at 10.54pm. He is then going to drive me back to Hertfordshire where Sister in Law is getting married tomorrow. Then he’s driving back to his own home (that still only has a medieval bathroom) in London afterwards.

The reason why I’m in Staffordshire is because Mrs Cake Pops generously let us borrow their minicab for the six weeks and three days we’ve been back in the UK. Saving us a small fortune which we’re very thankful for.

Such is the kindness of the friends I have.

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People like Nana Moon who let us invade her well kept personal space for five days with all the mess, noise and chaos that comes with #1, 2 and 3.

The friends who have taken time out and driven some distance to come and spend a couple of hours with us. The friends who would have liked to have done the same but sometimes you just can’t make it work with all the commitments that we have.

As I sit in this quiet train carriage after a long day of driving from the north to the south and back to the Midlands again, I can spend an hour reflecting on how much I’ve enjoyed this return trip to the UK.

I’m looking forward to browsing through all the photos and reminding myself and #1, 2 and 3 of all that we’ve done and who we have seen.

Whether I am ready to head back to Singapore is one thing but I do know they are tired with all this gallivanting around the country. They are ready for their own room, school and all that is familiar to them. I would say #1 is even ready to have some time away from us too.

So in two days we’ll be heading back to Singapore and after sitting in an open plan train station shelter for an hour, I think I might appreciate going back a little bit more. It was really proper cold.

As pointed out to me by a complete stranger that I wasn’t wearing the appropriate clothing for the weather. Just to clarify I wasn’t wearing Geordie uniform of no coat and sleeves but I wasn’t dressed in four layers like him, including two hoods and a woolly hat (sans pom pom). By his own admission, he said he often felt people looked down upon him for dressing and speaking like a Chav. I must say I had reservations at first. But the kindness of this stranger who chose to open up a conversation meant that an hour long wait in the freezing cold passed by surprisingly quickly.

Every trip back we have managed to have a gathering of old friends. Usually at Uncle Monkey’s but not this time due to lack of personal hygiene facilities as mentioned on previous occasions.

This time, Husband and I decided to entrust the care of #1, 2 and 3 in the capable hands of Sister in Law to enjoy a jolly in London Town instead.

I Love London as you know. It was so good to enjoy a big London night out with Husband again after six and a half years. Quite a treat for us to spend our second night away from #1, 2 and 3. Especially after a whole month apart.

Even better to spend it in a proper pub on the Strand with old friends we’ve spent many such days and evenings with doing as much but a long time ago. We’re all now quite far away from our London youth. If we didn’t have children to get back to, then it’s the last train out of town to catch or a badminton league match on a Sunday morning.

That’s ok though because even if we only get just a few hours in the pub, it was exactly like old times. You all make me laugh until my face aches. I hadn’t seen some of you for a number of years but I don’t think that made much difference and that makes me feel good.

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I like how you’re still The Ones who make me laugh the most. When we left the UK, I was worried whether these friendships would fall by the wayside. Whether we’d drift apart. Whether you and I would have nothing to say, nothing to laugh about.

But after six years, it’s still the same. If not better as we appreciate each other more. We have grown up together through at least one decade if not two.

I needn’t have worried. So I just want to say Thank You.

Thank you for still being there even though I’ve been half a globe away. I’m very lucky to have friends like you.

So Uncle Monkey has just texted me to say he’s already waiting at Milton Keynes station, it does mean I’ll have to say nice things about him for a while.

I think I can manage that.

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The Great British Outdoors

If there’s one thing I’ve really enjoyed about being back in the UK, besides from being with all you’s lot of course, it is being in The Great British Outdoors.

You may wonder what on earth am I talking about with having lived in Singapore for the last six years where it is eternally between 26 and 32 degrees. How you would trade a grey rainy day for sunshine and temperatures like that.

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It’s just not the same. I doubt many of you could manage hours in The Great Tropical Outdoors without sweat dripping everywhere, getting sunburn and feeling like you’re going to expire and in dire need of a sit down and nap.

It is much more enjoyable being out in The Great British Outdoors over here, even if you do get a bit windswept and #2 and 3 turn a bit blue.

A cold, crisp air is far more energising and I forget just how much I miss being able to run outdoors in the cold. Although at first it takes a bit of motivation and layering up, once you’re out moving it doesn’t take much to get you all warmed up. Just as well I like the cold as I had promised #1, 2 and 3 a trip to Peppa Pig World.

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Peppa Pig and her family have long captivated #1, 2 and 3 with their rolling around in muddy puddles escapades. #1 and 2 couldn’t believe there is such a place as Peppa Pig World. Neither could I actually. They have been going on about visiting this place since before we booked our flights.

It’s a long drive from the In Laws to where Nana Moon lives. But along the way lives Lil Sis who came to Singapore in May with my gorgeous nieces Babs and Mini. #1, 2 and 3 simply adore Babs and Mini. They were highly excited to be visiting them and would have loved to stay for longer. It was hard work wrenching them away and only the promise that Nana Moon lives near to Peppa Pig World would do the trick.

Then just before we passed under the bridge to get to Nana Moon’s, we spot a massive billboard poster advertising Peppa Pig World, convincing #1 and 2 that Nana Moon does indeed live in Peppa Pig World.

Nana Moon is a connoisseur of high octane thrills. So is #2 and #3 has full potential to follow suit. I do not. I am getting worse as we move further Beyond Forty. I especially dislike rides that go round and round. My head spins on a basic playground roundabout then I have a headache rest of the day. I’m also rubbish at acting cool on rides and will inevitably be the one screaming from the top to the bottom of a slide. Much to the chagrin of #1.

But Peppa Pig World is amazing! I love it and so does Nana Moon. I’m pleased she did because a theme park with three children is not always everyone’s idea of a Sunday outing. They especially like her enthusiasm for going on all the rides. I like the fact none of the rides were high octane, except for the spinning clouds one. Everyone else is spinning in theirs except for us, until we discover the wheel you manually turn yourself for high octane spinning action. I felt sick afterwards.

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What is lovely about these outings is how much they really believe it’s Peppa and George they are meeting. Which is why it is rather surprising to find the cafe happily offers ham sandwiches as part of the packed lunch boxes you can buy. As pointed out by Nana Moon.

Another favourite of #1, 2 and 3 has been The Gruffalo. They were a little nervous about going to Alice Holt Forest for the Gruffalo’s Child forest trail walk until they realised there’s no such thing as a Gruffalo and it was all picture book cut outs.

Incidentally, whilst we were having lunch at the cafe at Alice Holt Forest, I overheard the conversation at the next table where the children were having sausage butties for lunch. One child asks ‘where do sausages come from?’. A Grown Up answers ‘from pigs’. Another Grown Up adds, ‘like Peppa. You know, where you’re going to tomorrow’. The child was silent for a very long time.

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In Singapore, we do have a fairly good outdoor life with the swimming pool, the man made beaches and parks but there’s nothing quite like a bunch of trees and a stream to play Pooh sticks. I’ve seen how much #1, 2 and 3 along with their friends enjoy having any patch of grass to run around on. They just love playing catch and they can go on for ages! I can feel myself burning off the calories just watching them. I wish.

It has been great to have spent time with some wonderful friends out and about. To go places together that neither of us have been to and just have our children play together. Or on the occasions where it has been raining without a break, it’s been great to catch up indoors with mugs of hot tea and pasta and marvel at how times have changed where once we caught up in some bar or other.

To enjoy The Great Outdoors, you don’t need sunshine, warm weather and t shirts. Don’t envy us the seemingly better Great Tropical Outdoors with it’s mosquitos, humidity and sweat fests. Sometimes it is glorious to have all that but I think I’d rather have something more varied. Something more like the change of seasons The Great British Outdoors has to offer. So that you can truly appreciate a warm hazy sun after a long freezing winter. Where you notice the small things like falling leaves and the new blossoming of a winter crocus. The bluebells and hay fever to follow and the long days of sunlight. Winter can be grey and dismal but there is much warmth to look forward to.

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Love London

I’ve been back in the UK for a month now. A whole month you know!

It’s been a busy, packed to the hilt, constantly on the go month.

It’s impossible to take it easy if you haven’t been back to the UK for almost three years. I’m sure you would have a long list of people to catch up with and places you want to be.

As you know I love Newcastle and all things Way Up North. But if you have ever lived in London, I’m sure no matter how long ago or where you may live now, the allure of London never fades.

I love London. LOVE London! Even more so now that I know I’ll probably never live there again. I only realised this fairly recently when thoughts of returning to the UK have presented itself.

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London represents a part of our lives that epitomises youth. Long boozy debauched nights and carefree lazy days. Where lifelong friendships were formed and where you truly can’t help but feel vibrant and alive.

Where else can you find such a buzz of activity and so many different ways of life. It has old English charm and the richness of a multicultural society living right amongst each other. The sights, smells and sounds of London offers a fervour you can find in few other places. Perhaps this is sentimental nostalgia and no doubt I’ll feel the same about Singapore when the time comes.

Regardless of this, I bet even you can’t deny the famous words of Samuel Johnson, “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”

Yes, sometimes the frenetic pace of London can wear you down. The crowds, the dirt, the heat of the Tube, the queues are not always pleasant. The fact you’re never far from a rat makes me vomit. The mice on the Tube tracks freaked me out and brought me to tears to find them scurrying across the exit stairs at Finsbury Park station.

But the beauty of its famous landmarks and glorious parks are something to behold. I never did as much as I ought to have. Rarely a frequent visitor of the many museums, theatres and art galleries. They’ll still be there in years to come.

But I remember the outdoor gigs in Hyde Park, the Charity League softball games, the dingy pubs and swanky bars, the Christmas lights, the River Thames, the old church right next to the latest modern structure, the walking routes overland that take you from A to B far quicker than by Tube.

I arrived in London with no real plan. No urgency to stay. Perhaps a couple of years maybes. Famous last words. But in London time seems to slow down. Less need to settle down and become Grown Ups. Weekends are booked up months in advance because we are all so busy working, socialising and being places.

If the opportunity hadn’t come up to move to Singapore, I imagine we may be living on the outskirts of London. Perhaps still working there but hardly enjoying the life we once had. Perhaps it’s just as well to have had a concise, clean break. For London will always remain that wonderful place of our youth.

It would have been a real shame to have all this time in the UK and not find myself amongst this familiar place again. And I am very lucky that my in laws gave me the chance to relive a London experience for 24 hours sans kids!

I enjoy driving and the freedom it gives but equally love a solitary train journey with nothing to do but look out of the window. Even paying the extortionate fare from Leeds to London seemed worth it just this once. And as my Mother in Law was responsible for booking my cab to the local train station, I was guaranteed to arrive on time. In fact I was a whole 20 minutes early for the train which Husband says is the earliest I’ve ever been for anything.

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So, after a few hours I arrive at London King’s Cross train station. The excitement and anticipation I’m feeling is insurmountable! I’ve got my day mapped out of lunch with Mr Cupping, a wander around town towards the Tower of London and then back to an old haunt for drinks with old friends and colleagues.

Then suddenly I’m floored.

Where the f am I?

I don’t know where the f I am. Truly I don’t.

This is King’s Cross station? You have got to be kidding me. It was a dump. Where has the dump gone? When it was there, you sort of wished it could be a little bit more like it’s sister Euston station (which wasn’t even all that) and it wasn’t a patch on the revamped St Pancras that was all done up just before I left the UK.

Why does no one prepare you for such things?

Then when I get my bearings and find the Underground (which is downstairs), I’m confronted with queues that go this way, then that way, then this way again. I’ve got three Oyster cards in my hand and my confidence in knowing what I’m doing has taken such a battering that I’m not even sure they’re still valid.

I find myself a uniformed person to ask if they are and she helps me jump the queue to check they are still indeed valid but with only 200 shillings on each of them. The queue is humongous. There apparently is no other way to top up. ‘Unless you have cash?’, she asks. I do and so she offers to top up for me if I just wait over here in the corner.

Within 10 minutes of arriving in London, I’m handing over £20 to a stranger who wanders off with it. Even though she’s wearing an authentic uniform, I’m wondering if perhaps I’ve been away too long and am now well and truly one of ‘those’ naive tourists. But how wrong to have such little faith. She comes back shortly after and has saved me queuing for at least an hour.

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I’m meeting Mr Cupping at Moorgate station. A place I once knew with my eyes shut. Where exactly to stand on the platform to get off nearest the exit. Which ‘Way Out’ to take to get me exactly where I want to go. Clearly you lose such knowledge as soon as you no longer need it.

When I get my bearings though, I remember and I recognise roads and shops and places I used to spend hours at. We head for lunch at Whitecross Street food market round the corner from where I used to work at the National Deaf Children’s Society some nine years ago. You can actually take your lunch inside a nearby pub you know. How brilliant is that!

After lunch I head off for a whistle stop shop at Oxford Circus which is absolutely heaving and I don’t get very far. It’s sort of the same but there are shops that aren’t. A sign of the economic downturn I guess.

One thing I really wanted to see after all the media coverage that made it look spectacular, is the poppy installation, Tower of London Remembers, commemorating the fallen soldiers of World War One.

So Uncle Monkey and I took a walk together along the South Bank of the River Thames from London Bridge to Tower Bridge. The last modern structure I marvelled at was the Gherkin and now there is the Walkie Talkie and the Shard. Can you believe that was the first time Uncle Monkey had seen the Shard before? He lives five miles up the road. Both are ok but having seen all that the Singapore skyline has to offer, it doesn’t appeal to me anywhere near a fraction of the ones of old.

Tower Bridge is still absolutely glorious. Stunning. A reminder of my London Marathon days as we battled with the crowds to get across it to the Tower of London. It was so worth it. The poppies are amazing and it sends shivers down your spine just thinking of what it represents. The light was fading on an overcast day, the photographs I took didn’t do the scene justice. So I’m glad Mrs Steamer and I went back the next day on a warm and sunny Halloween. Apparently temperatures reached 21 degrees.

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And then of course, it wouldn’t be a London outing sans kids without reliving some of your errant ways in a place that bore witness to much of your errant ways with people who encouraged your errant ways like Mr Cadbury’s Eclairs who is sporting a lot of facial hair. In fact a lot of menfolk in London are sporting facial hair. To hide the wrinkles I think. Saves on Botox.

We are all a few years older than before but it seems few of us have learnt much restraint. Well we have. How could we not with multiple children in the mix and trains beyond zone 4 to catch. But it was so good to catch up with people I’ve told you about and people I haven’t seen since my London leaving do more than six years ago.

How funny to hear Scrivvers hark on about my northern accent that she forgot I had and how hilarious I find her posh clipped tones. There was much to celebrate and catch up on. It was a shame a few other faces have moved so far out of London Town not to have been there. You were sorely missed.

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Unlike the awful hangover that was sure to follow the next day when drinking on an empty stomach. (Do you ever learn?) So I stay over with Mrs Steamer because the alternative was to stay with Uncle Monkey whose flat has no working bathroom and I won’t tell you exactly how or where you need to do all your personal evacuations. Little Miss Steamer is up bright and early and it’s my first introduction to her. This gorgeous girl that keeps popping her head above the bed to check on the strange person that can’t move without feeling dizzy and sick just yet. A great lasting memory her Mum is going to remind me of I’m sure.

But later on that day Mrs Steamer herself wasn’t entirely so smug when her first hangover in nearly two years kicked in with a vengeance. That’s what you get for dragging me out around town when I can’t look down for a Hawksmoor breakfast that includes bone marrow in the mix. It was actually surprisingly palatable even with a severe hangover.

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When you haven’t been somewhere or seen someone for a long time, you imagine much has changed. At first glance you think they have but actually give it another glance and you realise the core of things don’t really change. The essence of people you know well certainly don’t.

London is still the same. It’s an amazing place to be and I’m so glad it was our home for nine years. I miss it and I love it but it’s not where I would choose to be right now. Not with #1, 2 and 3. I want them to discover all that London can be and all that London can give in their own time.

London was once that mythical place. The capital city of England that was so far away from Newcastle Upon Tyne. Even when we did go when I was a child, we hardly ventured beyond Chinatown! But that was ok because you got to eat some really yummy food.

As a consequence, I will never take London and all it has to give for granted. I still marvel at the sights and I don’t care if it makes me look a complete tourist and uncool. It makes me happy to be there.

Lucky for me, I get another night out next weekend sans kids with Husband and another group of friends who also encouraged errant behaviour back in the day. Perhaps I’ll be more restrained as we are taking #1, 2 and 3 for their first London experience the day after.

I’m definitely not tired of London and especially when I’m in London with you too. Until next time, London, may others enjoy all that you are.

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